Spaghetti squash look-in-the-pan

When I was growing up, my mom always used to make a dish known as “look-in-the-pan.” The basic idea behind the name was that if you asked her what was for dinner, it would be easier for her to tell you to look in the pan than describe what she was making.  Look-in-the-pan almost always involved some kind of pasta, hamburger meat, spaghetti sauce, a variety of vegetables, and possibly cheese, but rarely consisted of the exact same combination as the last time.  It was a popular dish in our household that we ate many times over the years.

Well, today I made a new, low-carb version of look-in-the-pan.  It is much different than the kind I always ate growing up, but the name still seems appropriate.  Want to know what’s in it? Look in the pan…

Just kidding!  I’ll still tell you.  I combined cooked spaghetti squash, cooked chicken that had been marinated in a sun-dried tomato sauce (from Trader Joe’s…not homemade), olive oil, garlic, onion, fresh basil, feta cheese, salt & pepper, and a little bit of a sun-dried tomato spread that I had in the fridge.  It turned out really well, although nothing like traditional look-in-the-pan.  I did especially like the flavor of the feta cheese in this dish…something to remember!

What ingredients would you use if you were making your own look-in-the-pan?

Stuffed Green Peppers

Today I finally used up the rest of the vegetables that I purchased at the farmer’s market by making these delicious stuffed green peppers!  I came up with this idea after doing some googling for recipes with green peppers, since I had so many of them.  I thought it turned out really well and will definitely have to make it again!

As a side note, while I was trying to decide what kinds of spices to season the beef mixture with, I couldn’t decide if I wanted this to be an Italian or Mexican dish.  I went with Italian, but am looking forward to trying a Mexican-themed version next time!

The recipe is pretty easy.  Here it is (adapted from momswhothink.com ).  Most stuffed green pepper recipes call for rice, but I left that out and didn’t miss it at all.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 large green bell peppers
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 tomatoes, diced (or 1 20-oz can of whole tomatoes)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic and Italian seasonings to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can of condensed tomato soup
Directions:

To make the recipe, begin by preheating your oven to 350.  Then, remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and parboil them in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain the peppers and set aside.

Here are my boiling peppers:

In the meantime, cook the ground beef in a large skillet and drain the grease.  Add chopped onions and tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and spices to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Mix in half of the shredded cheese and add some grated parmesan cheese.

Spoon the beef mixture into the green peppers and place in a 9 x 13 baking pan.  Mix a little bit of water into the condensed tomato soup (until it can be poured) and pour over the stuffed peppers and the pan.  Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining cheese.

Bake the peppers uncovered for 20 minutes (or until cheese has melted and peppers are hot).  Enjoy!

Caprese salad, two ways

My roommate and I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe’s recently, so I have been on the lookout for basil recipes to make.  I was very excited after my farmer’s market and North End run to make some caprese salad.  Always a delicious dish, I think it only gets better the fresher your ingredients are.  With that in mind, I’m not sure it gets any better than this: fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, freshly picked basil leaves from our basil plant, and fresh mozzarella from an Italian deli!

Caprese Salad #1:

It was really delicious!  I think that this is the best (and yet, possibly the cheapest) fresh mozzarella that I have ever bought and it really made the dish.  I know what you’re thinking (…Mom…): what if I don’t have a fancy Italian deli to buy fresh mozzarella at?  Easy, come to Boston, of course!

The dish is pretty simple.  Layer sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad #2 (an actual salad):

The next day, I turned this dish into an actual salad in an effort to make a dent in the humongous bag of spinach that I bought.  The ingredients are pictured below.  Going clockwise, I used tomatoes, basil, roasted red peppers, chicken, and fresh mozzarella.

I tossed these toppings with the spinach and added salt and pepper and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Delicious!

Looking forward to having some more soon!

Our basil plant

Fresh mozzarella

My homemade tomato sauce

One of my great loves is Italian food.  As a result, many of my cooking experiments revolve around perfecting some of my favorite Italian dishes.  One thing that I have learned is that the tomato sauce is key. Through the help of friends and the powers of Google, I have come up with an amazing recipe that I think is a real keeper.  It’s incredibly flavorful and has a delicious sweetness from fresh basil (a critical ingredient, I have learned). Best of all, it can transform even the most mediocre chicken parmesan into something truly delicious.

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